Title: Coded For Murder
Entry nickname: Croissants kill!
Word Count: 73,000
Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller
The body hangs from an oak by the frigid mile-wide expanse of the St. Lawrence River. Where the face should be, the wind whips over exposed, acid-etched bone. And a noose of thick rope coils tightly over a red silk tie.
Chief Inspector Derek James of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal survived the storm at sea that took his wife and infant son, leaving him with a hand that doesn’t work, and a personality that can withstand a hurricane.
Within hours, James has ID’d the faceless victim as a tech startup executive. But with a twelve-year-old as a witness, and CEO Holly, a gay black woman driven to sell the startup, sabotaging his case, James is no closer to finding the murderer. Holly knows what's going on, but she won't willingly confide in him.
Things go from bad to worse. When his car is bombed, James realizes his boss is trying to kill him. Maybe he shouldn’t have slept with his boss’s mistress, but there’s another reason for the attack, best kept under wraps. For now.
Suspects surround James, all of them liars, and one of them the masked assailant who strung up the body from the tree.
With two more attacks within twenty-four hours, he must choose – going by the book, or resorting to coercion – to unearth the killer, to save his twelve-year-old witness, to expose a conspiracy coded for murder.
April 2, 6:50 am
“Strung up by the river? Without a face?”
Chief Inspector Derek James of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal spoke more to himself than to the team. He tucked his cold hands into his pockets and looked up. A rope looped over the middle branch of an oak in the urban beach park. Above him hung a body with an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. The face was stripped to the bone with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.
James’s gut tightened, but he stilled the reaction in an instant, regaining his calm. What did it matter how any of us went?
“I’m sure we’re thinking the same thing.” Forensic Pathologist John Seymour’s eyes were bright and keen. “What could this poor guy have done to deserve this?”
James rubbed the short stubble on his jaw. Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. It was amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence River choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.
“What can you tell me, Doctor?”